A Companion of Harold Fry

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce.

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I absolutely adored ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ so when I saw that the author had written a book from the perspective of the woman set out to walk to, I couldn’t resist.

For those who have read ‘Harold Fry’ you will know that Queenie is terminally ill with cancer and is living out her days in a hospice in Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Queenie tends to keep to herself but when news spreads about Harold, the mood changes in the hospice as everyone rallies around Queenie to encourage her to keep her strength up. The hospice is run by nuns, and with Queenies ability to talk being quite limited due to her illness, one of them suggests that she writes a letter for Harold.

Through the writing we learn about how Queenie came to work in the Brewery with Harold all those years ago and hear in painstaking detail how she fell in love with him but was always happy knowing that nothing could ever come of it. As the book develops the author offers an insight into Queenie’s fellow friends at the hospice, and in this moment’s humanity, friendship, love and compassion are offered up in very beautiful and heart breaking ways.

Towards the end of the novel Queenie has to write down one of her biggest secrets involving Harold’s tragic son David. On pain meds and feeling increasingly anxious as Harold’s arrival is fast approaching, this makes for a perfect end to a beautiful story. An incredibly warm novel, which offers an insight into an otherwise unknown character.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

‘Sometimes you can love something not because you instinctively connect with it but because another person does, and keeping their things in your heart takes you back to them.’

Happy reading.

Georgina.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book That Made You Cry’

Book Number One – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

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It is just a normal day in Kingsbridge when Harold Fry receives a letter from a long, lost friend. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Queenie Hennessey for almost 20 years so when she writes to thank him and say goodbye, Harold feels that his letter in response just won’t be enough. So without any planning, and unbeknownst to his wife, he decides to walk to Queenie, who is terminally ill with Cancer and on the other side of the country, in the hope that it will keep her alive.

Along the way Harold has time to reflect on his childhood, one that was filled with abandonment and lacked any kind of affection, he also reflects on his own relationship with his son David and wonders why he and his wife have felt like two strangers passing one another for so many years.

During his walk Harold begins to meet many people, each with their own story to tell, some are having secret affairs, some are waiting for a loved one to return and others are hoping the day will come when they build up enough confidence to leave their small hometowns and see the world. With each person he meets Harold begins to realise that everyone looks so normal, but each of us harbours our own secrets, regrets and pain. When people hear of Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage, they open up their hearts to him, and although a fair few think that what he is doing is a little crazy, it inspires them and fills them with hope and in return encourages Harold to continue on his soul searching journey.

Back home in Knightsbridge, Harold’s wife Maureen slowly begins to realise how her life would be without her husband, and uses the time he is walking to reflect on her life, her marriage and her passions and hobbies that seem to have been ignored for a long time.

One thing Rachel Joyce perfectly captured was the disjointed way in which memories, even those particularly difficult or painful, come back when you least want them to, and how they often won’t be ignored. Her manner of writing is filled with so much warmth and description that it almost feels poetic. But the thing I perhaps loved the most about this book was how it really stops and makes you think.

The last five chapters of the book were incredibly touching and as soon as I felt that tell tale lump in my throat, I knew it was only a matter of time before I felt warm tears slide down my face. The subtle way she deals with the chapter that looks at things from Queenie’s perspective, really took my breath away. The tears fell from my eyes with no forced effort. This was a truly wonderful novel and I’d recommend this to everyone. It makes you want to make the most of life; it fills you with hope and reminds you how important it is to tell those that matter that you love them.

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Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘Nobody is so frightening once you stop and listen, Maureen.’

 

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

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